Buzz of co-production satisfaction

By Naomi Gill, Capacity PSA, Service Support and Improvement Specialist for ourNCTservices projects

I’m a new face to the Knowledge and Service Development team, and it’s still wearing a smile – reflecting on the seriously productive day spent at the paid for 1:1 breastfeeding co-production team pilot review meeting in Birmingham at the end of September. My addition to the team is a complimentary role to my other NCT role as a Capacity PSA. It sees me bringing my working knowledge of operational policies, processes and systems to support ourNCTservices projects.

It was comforting to join my friend, colleague and fellow pilot team member Lucy Joyce for the train journey from our home town of Leicester to Birmingham. I first met Lucy nine years ago, when I moved back from London to my home town, heavily pregnant with my first child, at NCT Leicester Branch’s Bumps and Babies group and drop-in. She ran it with my sister. Nine years of ongoing branch involvement for me – including stints in every conceivable branch volunteer role – meant we could enjoy an animated catch-up about work, children and life as we trained it over to Brum.

Hosted by Gowling WLG, in a glass office set amidst an expansive atrium, it was a contrast from the home office environment, apart from perhaps the rain! We had five hours and one packed agenda to tackle:

  • Review timescales and progress
  • Lone worker policy – agree streamlined approach for remainder of the pilot
  • Booking & payment processes – what should we do for the rest of the pilot?
  • Supporting free/subsidised breastfeeding support
  • What’s the difference between a voluntary and paid for visit?

Key team decisions were required. After a thought-provoking warm-up exercise by Sophie where we mind-mapped both our current internal thoughts and preoccupations, as well as our hopes for the day on another – the sharing of which prompted both tears and laughter – I felt we were both bonded and ready for a collaborative day.

The paid for 1:1 breastfeeding support pilot team. Naomi is front and centre.

The meeting really flew by – fuelled by breastfeeding counsellor Louise Oliver’s doughnuts. These kicked off a day of necessary and ongoing refreshment to keep us on track. The discussions were in-depth, with balanced and considered input which propelled us forward to arrive at decisions we needed to make. I felt both personally and professionally welcomed and supported, especially when leading the session on the possibilities for our payment and booking process. Here I showcased a process map and exploration of available alternative systems and processes for the project. Great questions and insightful contributions from all of the team helped us to develop and agree both a SWOT and improvement plan for our existing 18-step process. The energetic session pace was balanced by a reflective discussion around the differences between voluntary and paid for visits, which was fascinating for me as a non-practitioner.

As I smile, I am relishing how the day provided me with a map of a new service growing in different ways and defining itself along the way through dedicated work and thorough analysis. I can still feel that buzz of co-production satisfaction gained from coming together with the group, sharing different experiences and viewpoints and digesting our feedback to make decisions that moved the project forward and planned its future shape. I have always embraced and valued NCT’s co-production ethos – attending ourNCTservices workshops, the Joint Weekend where PSAs and Senior Practitioners (and volunteers) come together – and value of this was only further cemented for me by this round-the-table day meeting.

Useful links:

Bookending my NCT story

By Ann Carrington, Quality Manager

My first involvement with NCT was in 1987 when I booked to attend antenatal classes. And just as my first involvement was because of a baby my decision to leave is also because of a baby – this time my granddaughter – as I will looking after her three days a week when my daughter returns to work next year.

I’ve held many jobs and roles during my time with NCT. I volunteered as a postnatal supporter – and the woman I supported is one of my best friends some 30 years later. I’ve been treasurer to our local teachers’ group in pre-PSA days. I trained as an Antenatal teacher, became an Advanced Teacher (now known as an EP), an Assessor and then a tutor. I was a co-chair of Teachers’ Panel, an Assessor Co-ordinator for two stints and my last role has been as Quality Manager.

It’s been a tremendous experience and I have enjoyed being with parents, practitioners, students, senior practitioners, tutors and other staff members. There have been challenging moments – a couple of Assessor Update weekends spring to mind! But what really shines out for me about NCT is how good we are at collaborative working and the huge amount of support that is offered by peers and colleagues.

During my last few months, I have been involved with the One Antenatal project which feels like a fitting end to my NCT career. I’m the proud possessor of one of the Golden Guinea Pig awards – given to those of us who took part in the first cohort of the BA in Educational Studies. Over the years I’ve seen our training and courses change and adapt to meet the needs of parents. I particularly enjoyed my last few years of teaching when the parents were at the same stage of life as my daughter and son-in-law. Then watching my daughter and son-in-law as they embarked on their NCT journey was fascinating and gave me plenty to think about!

As well as many good friends, my time with NCT has given me so many valuable skills which I intend to continue to put to good use in the future. A local branch of a charity is looking for facilitators for a restorative justice programme…  As I wheel my granddaughter around Balham, I see other grandparents doing the same thing and I wonder about starting a grandparent and baby/toddler group…

The two photos form bookends to my life with NCT. The first is the family photo I included in the portfolio I submitted to Teachers’ Panel to qualify as an Antenatal teacher. The second is a photo of the first time I held my granddaughter.

Learning about what is important to practitioners

Rachael Leonard, Research and Service Development Officer

I’m going to start with a big THANK YOU to everyone who contributed to the One Antenatal survey over the summer. It has been such a privilege to read all your thoughts and ideas!
 
I’m Rachael Leonard and I joined NCT as Research and Service Development Officer earlier this year. I am also a branch coordinator and regional volunteer. It was my job to analyse all your feedback from the sink and sing survey, which has given me a real insight into what is important to you as practitioners, both for delivering courses but also for the parents you teach. I will admit that I have felt the responsibility laying heavily upon my shoulders to make sure that I use my research skills well to truly capture your thoughts and ideas and convey them in a useful way to the project team, because your feedback will shape what happens next in the project. And so it was vital to have a second set of eyes to review your comments and verify the key themes. Fiona Robertson was the woman for the job! She has used her extensive knowledge and experience as a breastfeeding counsellor, assessor and supervisor to make sure that the meaning of your comments was captured accurately. You can read her blog about the sing or sink survey here.
 
We quickly discovered that your thoughts echoed those of the project team with regards to flexibility, which was very reassuring. We can see how important it is that flexibility is retained in the new course, particularly with regards to facilitation style and being able to adapt your courses to the needs of the parents – this is part of the magic of the NCT course!
 
I was filled with joy to read your ‘Heart Sing’ thoughts and I got very excited for what’s to come. At this point Fiona had to reel me in just a little and remind me that delivering your dream course toolkit overnight might not be entirely realistic! However your ideas have given us really valuable insight that will be used to shape our proposals on what is needed to support the new course delivery.
 
I look forward to hearing all your thoughts and ideas again in late October when we share our draft course framework with you.

What would make your heart sing or sink?

I’m Fiona Robertson, one of the practitioners working as part of the co-production team on the One Antenatal project. I’ve been involved with NCT for over 15 years as a volunteer, breastfeeding counsellor, postnatal leader etc. I’m also a BFC supervisor and assessor for BFCs and PNLs. This means I’ve seen a lot of brilliant NCT practice over the years. The other members of the co-production team cover a wide range of practice and we are working really collaboratively with each other and with NCT staff members. The aim of our project is to take the best from Signature and Essentials courses and design a framework and toolkit for a future single antenatal course for NCT.

So, as you know we sent out a survey asking for feedback from any practitioners in which we asked ‘what would make your heart sing?’ and ‘what would make your heart sink?’ as well as allowing space for other comments.

Over 300 practitioners responded to the survey ? Well, that made my heart sing! I was so glad that so many people took the time to contribute, thank you!

The brilliant Racheal Leonard (Research and Service Development Officer in the Knowledge Team) then undertook the task of analysing the results in great detail. She coded every single comment in order to enable us to properly understand people’s priorities. What patience and skill it took to do that with such broad questions. One of the things I have learnt from being part of the team is that we have colleagues in the central staff team who are really super smart and skilled in ways which I am not. The co-production team really relies on this pooling of skills and teamwork and I am finding that very positive. You can read Rachael’s blog about working with me to analyse all your feedback here.

So… what did we hear from you? One overwhelming message is that you all want what we want – to retain your ability to be flexible in how you design and facilitate your courses and nobody wants a detailed manual. We do know we need a greater level of consistency in content and experience for parents – but this doesn’t mean an overly prescriptive course. What we are planning will have some more structure and detail than our existing frameworks and it will come with a set of overarching Aims and Learning Outcomes for the course as a whole. Exactly how each course is delivered will still rely on the skills, knowledge and judgement of individual practitioners. The practitioners who are part of the team have been clear about that since the outset – you may remember Sue Woollet’s blog about the project where she said this.

Another big issue was the cry for resources. Well, I’m with you there too. We’d love lots of shiny stuff. The challenge is now to work out what we might realistically be able to deliver. We have heard you want great resources to use during classes and also to hand out to clients. Hopefully everyone has already got their orders in for the new photo set – if not, find out more here and get in touch with your PSA. The other thing I feel hopeful we can do is to find better ways of sharing the excellent practice which exists among practitioners. People asked for a menu of activities and ways to not need to reinvent the wheel. We’ll work on how to offer that while also making sure that activities are not compulsory. We need to be able to continue to use the skills we have to maintain that all important flexibility while also more effectively sharing our great stuff between us.

My breastfeeding counsellor colleagues offered many comments about the length of time available for breastfeeding sessions, and a very clearly heard point is that ‘two hours is not enough’. We also know that client feedback tells us that dedicated time spent on breastfeeding evaluates better than breastfeeding content that is only ‘weaved in’ through the course. We are working hard to ensure that sufficient time is built in to course plans for breastfeeding. This points towards all courses having sufficient dedicated time spent on breastfeeding, rather than a mixture of separate and weaved content that we have at the moment.

Practitioners are keen to be able to access key evidence points for antenatal course content. This was something raised by lots of you. It’s important and we’ll work on how we can practically do that, for example by making use of all the work that has gone into evidence reviews for the parent content on our website.

We heard lots of worries about how Essentials only practitioners will transition to delivering the new course. These worried Essentials practitioners and others. We know all practitioners are valued and we clearly want to make sure we can keep everyone! We’ll be working out how to transition in a way which feels fair and supportive. We have an Essentials only practitioner on our team too – Lucy Pedder, and there’s no doubt that she’s specifically well placed to make sure your voices are heard about this ?

Overall, there wasn’t anything especially surprising coming up in the survey – more re-enforcement and helpful in understanding the relative priorities around some things. Everything which was raised will be taken into account and almost all of it is already on our agenda. That’s the beauty of the team including eight practitioners. There were a few things that we all know to be ongoing issues, mainly around venues, which are not part of this project and your comments on those will be passed on to the appropriate team. What you’ve said really confirms where we are heading and helps us remain clear on priorities. I’m now worrying that we can’t please all the people all the time – some of these things might be tricky to do. We’re trying our very best and we really appreciate all the support. Thanks all!

Reaching out in World Breastfeeding Week

Carolyn ready to give support

by Carolyn Neal, Breastfeeding Counsellor, Selby Branch

Mothercare invited me to come into their new store in York to promote World Breastfeeding Week. They were very keen and welcoming, so I agreed to come in for a few hours on the Saturday afternoon to speak to their shoppers and also take the opportunity to promote NCT’s antenatal courses and feeding support. One of my local colleagues and fellow Breastfeeding Counsellor (BFC), Elaine Antcliffe, came too.

I hadn’t done this sort of work before with Mothercare so wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Having a good working relationship with Tessa Kipping, in our Partnerships Team, I contacted her beforehand to check that this was OK to do and fell within our existing contract with Mothercare. I was pleased to find out too that NCT would pay me £87 plus expenses through their Mothercare contract – I am used to doing my BFC work on a voluntary basis so this was an added bonus!

On the day, I was warmly greeted by Mothercare staff and invited to sit at a table and chairs they had set up for me in a good position by their antenatal clothing. Unfortunately though in front of their promotional display for a well-known brand’s formula preparation machine… They had also put out a number of goody bags for us to give away to shoppers.

Several of their staff came to share their breastfeeding hopes, fears and issues so we had the chance to do a little counselling work. We also had some interest from pregnant shoppers who had either already booked their NCT antenatal course or accepted a leaflet about it.

We are all hoping this will lead into a bigger partnership with Mothercare and provide opportunity for our newly-qualified Breastfeeding Counsellors and Postnatal Leaders to get paid work within Mothercare stores. Although I had a great day unfortunately their sale was too good to resist and I ended up spending my earnings on the grandchildren!

Working towards one antenatal course

by Practitioner and Tutor Caroline Pearce

Hi, I’m Caroline. I’m part of the One Antenatal co-production team working to develop our new look antenatal course. My practice roles are Antenatal Practitioner (ANT), Baby Massage teacher (not as often as I would like) and Doula (when time permits, so not very often!). I also have Tutor roles at Level 4 and Level 5 specialising in the Antenatal pathway. 

Team dynamics

I think one of the reasons I was selected for the team is that I have multiple hats in NCT. I can easily see the perspective of current practitioners (particularly those who may have been in practice for some time, as I have) and current and future students. I’m also highly aware of all practitioners needing to be included in this project such as those who deliver our Essential courses. 

We had our first meeting back in June – the team has been thoughtfully put together with a range of us from different specialisms. Anyone who has ever attended a cross-specialism study day will know the huge value that that brings. One of the ‘ground rules’ that we established on our first day together is that everybody’s voice needs to be heard.

We’ve had two face-to-face meetings so far and several remote Zoom meetings (see collage of us waving above!). Once we got over the initial technical issues, these worked really well. The meetings are intense. There’s so much to get through but Sarah McMullen (Head of Knowledge) keeps us focused and there is a rigorous (if ambitious!) project deadline, which we are all working towards.

Learning outcomes

One of the things we are working on at the moment is learning outcomes (LO) – anyone who knows me knows I am a bit of a stickler with these so it was with some trepidation that I approached the first meeting on this. 

We are hoping to come up with some over-arching LO’s for the course and leave practitioners to create their own LO’ s for their own individual sessions. In the back of our minds we’re constantly thinking about how this can be a more consistent experience for parents and yet let practitioners retain their autonomy, which we absolutely accept is very important for some practitioners and is perhaps the reason that they were drawn to work with the NCT, rather than any other organisation. We also have to consider the implications this may have on new students we are recruiting and their training. 

Shiny new resources

We are also focusing on resources – I am so excited to get the new resource pack which will contain some beautiful laminated images of birth and early parenting.  In the face of ever increasing competition in this market it is so important for us to be seen to have a modern image.

New deadlines have been set through July and August, so while some of you may be kicking back and enjoying the summer the One Antenatal team will be beavering away trying to get this right for new recruits, existing practitioners and NCT as a whole. 

Your voice matters

We absolutely want your voice to be heard throughout this process so if there are any questions you have or any input which you think would be helpful for us, please do get in touch. If you haven’t already, please do complete our survey to tell us what you’d like the final course framework and toolkit to include!

Watch a short video above from the co-production team. 

Creating our future antenatal course

by Antenatal Teacher Sue Woollett

Sue (in pink) in action with the One Antenatal co-production team

I qualified as an Antenatal Teacher in 2008 and thought I’d probably be teaching antenatal courses in the evenings in Nottingham perhaps for to five times a year. Little did I know that a change in my other work would lead to my facilitating NCT courses all over Great Britain, from Edinburgh to Exeter, Cambridge to Caerphilly, at weekends and on weekday evenings, a variety of formats, Signature and Essentials, and up to 30 courses a year. When I went to one of the ourNCTservices workshops, I wasn’t remotely surprised to hear how many different formats and price points there were for antenatal courses; I was personally responsible for several of them.

So when the opportunity came up to get involved with the One Antenatal project, I decided to go for it. It wasn’t without some trepidation. I’ve worked in several organisations which have seen major changes, as well as those seen in NCT, and I know it makes for a difficult time. Hand on heart, I sat in the first meeting thinking, OMG is this going to upset everyone? Is there a sub-plot to develop a 300-page manual that will be handed to students who have been through five one-day training sessions and will be sent away to deliver the exact same course to a script? I can’t be associated with anything like that, that’s not very NCT. 

As the project has moved along I’ve realised that’s not the plan at all. I have more confidence now that the project will pull together a course which will allow practitioners to maintain our autonomy whilst harmonising the content to ensure parents can be assured of receiving a great quality course, wherever they live and whoever facilitates it. If you’re asked to get involved or have the opportunity to give us some feedback or opinions, please do. We can’t do this without you.


Watch our video about One Antenatal featuring a handful of the co-production team.

Giving feedback

You can keep up to date with our progress and opportunities for involvement on babble. We’d love to hear your ideas of what to include in our future course framework – you can share them in this survey.

Voices of our practitioners

Shaping the future of NCT

We had a fantastic response to our call for practitioners to be involved in ourNCTeducation and the next stage of ourNCTservices. Five practitioners on the project teams tell us more about why they applied and what they’re hoping to get out of it.

Rachael Bickley

The education of our practitioners is the foundation of the excellent courses and support we provide for parents. As an antenatal practitioner of four years, I have had the experience of studying with Bedford and Worcester models of education at levels 4 , 5 and 6. I am really pleased to be a part of the ourNCTeducation team as we explore the best of what our education provides and develop it further.

Julie Wall

Having studied at Worcester University since 2016, achieving my FdA degree in Birth and Beyond and now continuing with my BA hons, I bring to the table the most recent training experience. I have thoroughly enjoyed my training, and I am now working in the field too as an antenatal teacher (ANT) and postnatal leader (PNL). When the opportunity came up to be involved with shaping the future of ourNCTeducation I knew I would love to be involved. I’m really looking forward to bringing about change in order to maintain the high quality training our practitioners receive, whilst making it accessible and appealing. I feel truly honoured to be involved in this project and look forward to what the future brings.

This is a photo of me (centre), just before I went into the cathedral for my graduation last November. I love this photo, nervous, but delighted!

Rachael, Julie and Amy working on ourNCTeducation review

Amy Delicate

I am passionate about supporting parents, particularly their emotional needs in the transition to parenthood. Good quality practitioners are key to supporting parents and I am keen to help develop a robust education system that supports the needs of NCT whilst ensuring good parent support.


If you have any questions about ourNCTeducation, please get in touch.


ournctservices header

Lucy Pedder – developing one antenatal course, bringing together the best of Signature and Essentials

I’m really excited and fired up to get started on this project. I really believe in the value of co-production and involving as many stakeholders as possible when designing services. As practitioners we can sometimes feel a little side-lined and it’s really nice to be invited to contribute to this project.

I believe that good antenatal education makes a real and lasting difference to parents in the transition to parenthood. It can be the difference between a new parent starting out feeling confident, empowered and with full self-efficacy, versus fearful, traumatised and insecure. Practitioners know we make a difference but often feel stifled by the constraints imposed by course formats and administrative complexities.

Most parents on my courses have no idea of the difference between Signature and Essentials and book based on dates and location alone (I do ask at the start of each course). This means that there is no real purpose to having two courses apart from distinguishing between practitioners, which feels divisive and unfair. We are aware that the Preparation for Birth and Beyond (PBB) qualification was devised when it was thought that we would be delivering courses under contract to the NHS. Now that this has fallen through it feels like the right time to move on and revert to one, nationally recognised, core antenatal course for the NCT brand. As a practitioner from that “tricky” cohort who are level 5 qualified postnatal practitioner (PNP) but cannot deliver Signature courses, I recognise the frustrations that delivering Essentials brings, when we know we could be doing so much more.

Those of us who are passionate about perinatal support in general and NCT in particular want to help strengthen the charity so it can fulfil its potential. We know that the antenatal courses are key to this and the charity could be doing so much more once the antenatal offering is “fixed” and growing again.

Lucy Pedder and Heather Kale, practitioners on ourNCTservices project teams

Heather Kale – developing a paid 1:1 breastfeeding service

I’m very excited to be part of this small team looking into one-to-one paid for breastfeeding counselling. Although I’ve been a breastfeeding counsellor for 12 years I’ve always kept my head down and just got on with it. When this opportunity came up to consider the future direction of NCT breastfeeding counselling it really resonated with me as an idea and I applied straight away.

I have some experience of being ‘on the other side’ as I have been an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) for the past seven years and run a small private practice but my NCT breastfeeding counsellor role is always what I come back to as the foundation of everything I do. There are many things to consider here and I look forward to meeting the rest of the team and us getting our teeth into the nitty-gritty of how such a scheme might work.


If you have any questions about ourNCTservices, please get in touch.


Expanding NCT’s breastfeeding support services

Head of Knowledge, Sarah McMullenEarlier this year, as part of the evidence-gathering stage of ourNCTservices, we worked with Good Innovation to gather robust insight from parents through 130 in-depth discussions during pregnancy and after birth. We travelled across the UK, speaking to those who had done NCT antenatal courses as well as those that hadn’t.

Unsurprisingly, breastfeeding was one of the most emotive subjects discussed. Women and their partners expressed a desperate need for more accessible breastfeeding support, alongside greater realism of how challenging breastfeeding can be. The vast majority of women that we spoke to found establishing breastfeeding a very challenging experience, much harder than they ever expected. Poor experiences of postnatal care and not being able to access quality support once at home were associated with negative feeding experiences and feelings of failure for many of the women we spoke to. In contrast, mums who accessed good support valued it enormously.

Strengthening and growing our models of breastfeeding support is a key area of focus for us as we move into the implementation stage of the ourNCTservices project, alongside work to ensure all parents feel prepared and supported by our services whatever their feeding decisions.

In the meantime, we already have good news and progress to share from the continual improvement work happening with our central support teams.

The Volunteer Support team have been working closely with Juliet Smithson (Service Operations) and Michelle Longman (Partnerships) to improve the support we provide for NCT branches who are looking to make local grant applications for breastfeeding drop-ins, Baby Cafés or peer support. The team are already working with a number of branches and we hope to be able to share success stories soon. Volunteers and practitioners who would like support with grant applications and setting up services can get in touch via the Enquiries Team.

The Commissioned Services team have also worked with the peer support management group to redesign branch peer support training and reflective support packages to make them better value for branches. We hope this will help make it easier to set up and sustain breastfeeding peer support locally.

We’ve had some great success with securing funding for breastfeeding services recently. In Bradford, our contract to deliver breastfeeding peer support has been extended for another year, including piloting social media support. We have also worked closely with the commissioners to help shape the design of the service and the outcomes that they measure. We have two new grants for breastfeeding peer support training in Nuneaton and Wolverhampton, with lots of other branches submitting applications.

In Scotland, we will be rolling out two new areas for NCT to deliver Baby Café and breastfeeding peer support, including neonatal units across several Level 3 units. We will also be trialling the delivery of peer support training and reflective support by Skype for volunteers on the Scottish Islands. If this works well it could lead to wider roll out of the service across rural areas and other island communities.

We appreciate that not everyone is sharing in this good news – other areas have experienced funding cuts and loss of services locally. This challenging context is why the ourNCTservices project is so important – helping us all to think creatively and carefully about how we reduce the barriers to setting up and funding our services, so that more parents can access much needed support.

Thank you to all of our volunteers and practitioners who are working so hard to make sure families get the support they want and need – it really does make an enormous difference.

ourNCTservices moves towards the next phase

Caroline Star, Portfolio Review Manager

We said at the start of the ourNCTservices project we were going to do this properly. And my goodness we’ve stayed true to that. After hearing from 130 parents during interviews and focus groups and holding 70 workshops with volunteers, practitioners and staff there have been times over the last few weeks where I’ve suffered serious evidence overload. So I am incredibly excited to finally be on the road sharing findings and discussing the next steps at the #ourNCTstory events.

ourNCTservices is a systematic review to understand how, over the decade ahead, we ensure our NCT services are as relevant, accessible and impactful for parents as possible. We are going to focus first on strengthening our existing core services across breastfeeding, postnatal support and antenatal education. And, we are going to start to lay the foundations for increasing our reach and expanding postnatal support. It will consider what we need to stop, start, continue and adapt to ensure that more parents benefit from our existing core services and enable the space and resources to invest in increasing reach and expanding scope in future.

Since the beginning of the year we’ve been gathering evidence from parents, from practitioners, volunteers and staff and from NCT data. My challenge over the last few weeks has been to distil months of work and hundreds of pages of fascinating research into no more than ten key pieces of evidence for antenatal, breastfeeding and postnatal.

One of the things we’ve heard loud and clear from all of you is that we can make things very complicated at NCT. This is a problem because it gets in the way of meeting parents’ needs and costs us a lot of time and money. You’ve told us that we just need to make it simpler to use our skills and expertise to do better for parents.

On antenatal we heard that parents don’t understand the difference between our antenatal courses and people who don’t do NCT simply don’t understand the value of the knowledge and networks above NHS classes and family/friends. Those who do our antenatal courses like it at the time and see the peer groups as a complete lifesaver. But in hindsight they feel unprepared for the realities and are in need of continued support after birth.

We heard that breastfeeding support is a big area of need for all parents but many aren’t getting the right support at the right time – for a whole complicated web of reasons and emotions. Many parents feel judged, pressured and totally unprepared for the challenges. Some report that we’re contributing to these issues.

Postnatal support is vitally important to all parents, in the early weeks but also as they are finding their feet and establishing their new life as a parent. Peer networks aren’t enough and they still need our support. Yet the uncertainties of postnatal life make it harder to get people through the door.  We’re not giving up but we’ll need to do things differently to thrive and make the most of our unique skills and expertise in this space.

We were worried it might all sound a bit obvious. But in the first nine events you’ve told us that it’s incredibly useful to see challenges acknowledged and also to see all the different pieces of the jigsaw brought together for the first time. We’ve learnt a lot that is new about why parents do and don’t engage with services. We’ve revealed new insights on the impact, reach and cost of our services.  We’ve learnt from you about what’s getting in the way. And we’ve also knocked some long-held assumptions off the list of things to worry about. For example:

  • people do still bond and form networks on intensive courses
  • parents thinking about antenatal classes don’t hold a perception that we’re all a bunch of natural birth and breastfeeding zealots
  • the slightly lower income group we spoke to didn’t see any need for antenatal classes whatever the price

Now what do we do with our services as a result of what we’ve heard? That’s the hard bit. It is clear from the #ourNCTstory events so far that there are some areas which many people feel are pretty obvious next steps. Such as moving to one antenatal course and testing out paid-for breastfeeding support alongside the free services we already offer. However, many weeks and months of work lie ahead to figure out how we would actually do this in reality and make a success of it. There are other areas causing more debate – like exactly how to describe and shape our postnatal services and whether they should be pay-as-you-go or booked in a block.

We’ll be collating every single post-it note and feedback comment made at these events during June. We will use these alongside the evidence to identify the service changes with the highest potential to serve parents better and make things easier. In the second half of the year we’ll be exploring what it would take to make a success of these service developments. Proposals will then be discussed with our Board in December. This will ensure that when decisions are made they are based on a good understanding of the time, the people and the resources it would take to put them into action.

I’m about halfway through and I can’t wait to jump on the next train and get on with the second half of the #ourNCTstory events. The conversations I’m having make me really excited about how we can do better for parents and make better use of the amazing skills, expertise and empathy in the NCT movement.

If you’d like to discuss ourNCTservices further please do contact Caroline any time at caroline.star@nct.org.uk or on 020 8752 9190.